Thirsty? Check out the breweries, wineries, cideries and more across the happy valley.

Cocktail of the Month Club: Cranberry Cinnamon Whiskey Sour at Osteria Vespa, Amherst
Sep19

Cocktail of the Month Club: Cranberry Cinnamon Whiskey Sour at Osteria Vespa, Amherst

September marks the end of the summer and evenings are starting to bring with them a subtle autumn chill. Chase it away with this month’s cocktail, a cranberry-cinnamon whiskey sour that’s sure to warm you up, brought to you by Josh Draghe, head bartender at Osteria Vespa in Amherst.— Peter Vancini, pvancini@valleyadvocate.com Cranberry-Cinnamon Whiskey SourCourtesy of Josh Draghe, Head Bartender at Osteria Vespa. 1.5 ounces...

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Hot Damn! Sunderland’s ChiliFest is Coming
Sep12

Hot Damn! Sunderland’s ChiliFest is Coming

Hot DiggityCould it be that the lingering heat wave of the past week was due to the potency of the peppers newly ripening at Kitchen Garden Farm in Sunderland? Probably not, but we hear these little devils are hotter than ever — and just in time for ChiliFest. Kitchen Garden hosts its annual giant farmer party Sept. 17-18 at Mike’s Maze in the center of Sunderland, with bands, brews and spicy food all weekend long.Musical acts playing...

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Pour Man: Finally, A Sweet Wine That Delights
Sep12

Pour Man: Finally, A Sweet Wine That Delights

When someone suggested that I try MAN Family Wines’ Chenin Blanc, my first reaction was that I don’t like sweet wines.Although Chenin Blanc grapes are often used to make excellent sweet wines in France and elsewhere, I was assured I’d find this South African offering to be well-made, crisp, and refreshing — a dry white wine perfect for drinking in the warmer months. And I was told it’s a great buy.I respected the recommendation,...

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Staff picks: Get out there and hang with the Dude
Sep07

Staff picks: Get out there and hang with the Dude

Retrofaire 2016 Open Air Market • Saturday Fan of vintage fashion, jewelry, hard-to-find music gear, vinyl records and live jazz? The Northampton Arts Council presents the third annual RETROFAIRE, held in the space between Thornes Marketplace and the Northampton parking garage. Sidewalk chalk art, yo-yo shows, outdoor wine café and oyster bar as well! 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.  — Jennifer Levesque BrewFest in Holyoke • Sept. 9-10 The...

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Review: Not My Mother’s Kitchen, a cookbook by Rob Chirico
Sep06

Review: Not My Mother’s Kitchen, a cookbook by Rob Chirico

In the world of food, there is nothing more contentious than “traditional” Italian cooking — everyone with an ounce of olive oil in their veins thinks their family recipes are Old World classics. This is, in part, because Italian nonni rarely write down how to prepare their dishes — as if it is assumed Italians are born with an innate ability to make a proper risotto. There is no definitive way to make a particular Italian dish — or...

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The Lush Garden: Cocktail Recipes
Aug29

The Lush Garden: Cocktail Recipes

A guide to summer cocktails from the gardenIt’s hard to imagine a better way to top off an afternoon in the garden than by settling into a lawn chair with a refreshing summer cocktail and admiring your work. Even better if you can actually harvest a few ingredients from that garden to add a satisfying twist to that beverage of choice. With that in mind, we asked a few area cocktail aficionados to suggest their favorite recipes. What...

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The Pour Man: Grand Cru Challenge Accepted; Lucky Us
Aug29

The Pour Man: Grand Cru Challenge Accepted; Lucky Us

In the early 1970s when I was first widening my wine experience beyond the California jugs and the Portuguese roses, I discovered a French wine in a 2-liter plastic bottle.It cost about $1.50. It wasn’t very good. It had lots of strange residue in the bottom of the bottle that made me worry the plastic might be breaking down, transforming the wine into something cancer-causing. However, being of Scots’ heritage, I persevered. I...

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Taste-Off: Crunchies for the Munchies
Aug15

Taste-Off: Crunchies for the Munchies

One classic question among lazy, hungry people goes like this: if you had to pick one food to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be? It’s a fun question — and, if the Trumpocalypse triggers the end of global food supply lines, possibly a relevant one. But there is only one correct answer: salad. Why? Because a “salad” is just a mixture of more than one chopped-up thing, usually served with dressing. See? No contest.This has...

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Scene Here: On Tap Festival at Berkshire East
Jul19

Scene Here: On Tap Festival at Berkshire East

Last Call, Franklin CountyThis past Sunday’s inaugural Franklin County On Tap festival drew over 400 intrepid fans of craft beer, cider, and mead to Berkshire East Mountain Resort in Charlemont to sample brews from a dozen local operations, including the newest: Hitchcock Brewing in Whately, pictured here, which shipped its first keg May 15. Visitors wandered among two floors of vendor tables inside the lodge, but the most fun was to...

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The Pour Man: Graduate to New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
Jul19

The Pour Man: Graduate to New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

Nobilo, Sauvignon Blanc, 2015; Marlborough, New Zealand; $13.99During the last couple of decades, some of the world’s top wine critics have declared that the best Sauvignon Blanc comes from New Zealand, and I would agree with them. However, I also realize, as with most things, that it’s a matter of taste. For example, if you are a fan of the syrup that canned peaches or pears swim in, then you might prefer Sauvignon Blanc from France...

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The Pour Man: Champagne Chuck; inexpensive bubbly
Jul11

The Pour Man: Champagne Chuck; inexpensive bubbly

Dibon Brut Reserve Cava, of Penedes, Spain; $12.99I’ve been thinking about sparkling wine lately because it’s well suited for steamy summer nights; just one glass will go a long way to ease the heat.Sparkling wine also came to mind because someone gave me a bottle of Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve Champagne, which my wife, Sandy, and I savored during a recent special occasion.The wine is made by one of the most respected Champagne...

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Vodkamelons: Fact or Fiction?
Jun27

Vodkamelons: Fact or Fiction?

The staff at the Valley Advocate have been to many picnics, parties, hootenannies, hoe downs, shindigs, and festivals, but only one of us has ever tasted the infamous vodkamelon.Amanda Drane, our Third Eye Roaming yogi, claims to have made a vodka infused melon with her boyfriend that turned out, well, edible. According to Drane, the vodka and the melon never set, so serving pink fruit triangles wasn’t an option. At the beach with a...

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The Beerhunter: Five O’Clock Everywhere: Western Mass Beer Week June 11-18
Jun06

The Beerhunter: Five O’Clock Everywhere: Western Mass Beer Week June 11-18

The Beerhunter’s ears are always pricked to news of local craft beer happenings, and this month, they’re positively tingling. All that excitement in the air is thanks to the first-ever Western Mass Beer Week, a series of events at breweries, bars and restaurants all around the Valley June 11-18. Eighteen breweries and more than a dozen eateries have teamed up to celebrate the beer brewed around here.All told, 52 events are scheduled...

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Oh, Honey: Can spoonfuls of the all-natural sweet stuff help ward off allergies?
May31

Oh, Honey: Can spoonfuls of the all-natural sweet stuff help ward off allergies?

Ah, spring: The time of year when nature wakes up from its deep winter slumber: birds are singing, flowers are blooming, and allergy sufferers are miserable. A runny nose, itchy eyes, and constant sneezing are facts of life for the nearly 8 percent of Americans that suffer from allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than a minor nuisance to some, seasonal...

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The List: Pioneer Valley Farmers Market Where and When 2016
May31

The List: Pioneer Valley Farmers Market Where and When 2016

It’s time, everyone! Spring is well under way and summer is just around the corner (or maybe it’s already here, judging by last week’s heat wave). Time to supercharge your shop local skills and hit the streets (and fields, and parking lots) for the Valley’s spring and summer farmers markets.Here’s where, and when, to hit them up. Rip out this page, stick it to you fridge, and make farmers market visits a regular part of your...

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The Pour Man: Mark West Pinot Noir Redemption
May04

The Pour Man: Mark West Pinot Noir Redemption

On separate occasions during the last six months, a couple of friends have recommended that I try Mark West Pinot Noir, and although I respect their taste in wines, for some reason I didn’t get around to drinking it until recently. Maybe it’s because I see Mark West on the shelves regularly almost everywhere — the gold and red label is very distinctive — and I figured any wine that ubiquitous can’t be too great, certainly not as good...

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Scene Here: Afternoon Nighthawks
Apr25

Scene Here: Afternoon Nighthawks

A crisp smack of cold beer hits my palate; a dark, hearty rye. I’m engulfed by laughter and spirited conversation, lost in the dull roar, a wave washing over me. A sudden crash, a peaceful respite as it rolls back, redoubling its efforts at sweeping me away … but not for a little while longer.It’s 6 p.m. on a Thursday at the High Horse in Amherst. A few tables have filled up in the dining section, but most of the barstools are...

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Hidden Franklin County gems
Apr12

Hidden Franklin County gems

It’s 3pm in the hilltowns. Bright sunshine warms the Ashfield Lake, and the reflected light bounces up through the windows of the three-story Lakehouse, into the quiet bar and dining room.I’ve caught the tail end of Friday lunch, and the mood at the bar is calm. A few swivel stools away, three guys sit chatting in low, relaxed voices. Two are drinking bottles of Budweiser; the third is drinking a 12-ounce pour of Ginger Libation, the...

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South River Miso Taps the Ancient Art of Fermentation
Apr12

South River Miso Taps the Ancient Art of Fermentation

Highly CulturedChristian Elwell swings open a small, heavy door, and I glance in at the crib. The temperature inside this humid little room is about 90 degrees, and the wooden trays stacked in towers along the wall give off the smell of warm, steamed brown rice. In the center of the room sits the crib: a large wooden box lined with muslin cloth and filled with steamed rice that has been inoculated with mold spores. If I were...

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Pour Man: A White Wine for Late Winter
Mar22

Pour Man: A White Wine for Late Winter

My mother raised me right, schooled in the proper Southern custom of not wearing white from after Labor Day ’til the dogwoods bloomed in March. Until a couple of years ago, I held to the standard and applied its rigorous dictum to wine: white would not cross my lips before the spring. My rationale was health. I figured that only a good hardy red wine would thicken my blood enough to make going outside in sub-zero weather bearable. Red...

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Beerhunter: Franken-Steins (Have wacky beer ingredients gone too far?)
Mar14

Beerhunter: Franken-Steins (Have wacky beer ingredients gone too far?)

The dumbest thing I ever did on a date was to invite my lucky lady off-campus for an Indian dinner of vindaloo. The dish was so spicy that I spent half an hour struggling to force small talk out through my seized-up throat (luckily, the chili peppers hit her just as hard). So I can’t say that the glass of Habanero Sculpin (7% ABV) I ordered at Ballast Point’s brewery in San Diego last spring was the biggest spice surprise of my life....

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Curry in a Hurry: With Bombay Royale, Northampton finally has an Indian lunch buffet
Feb29

Curry in a Hurry: With Bombay Royale, Northampton finally has an Indian lunch buffet

I’m usually a patient guy, but I don’t understand why it takes people so long to order from restaurant menus. I often fight the urge to lean across the table and suggest to befuddled lunch buddies that they needn’t divine the one perfect dish. For crying out loud, just pick something. But there is one cuisine that always trips up my brash tactics: Indian food. At Indian restaurants, I take forever to order. Why? Because with Indian...

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The Pour Man: Bogle Old Vine Zin’
Feb08

The Pour Man: Bogle Old Vine Zin’

During a recent visit to the North Carolina mountains, my wife and I were lucky enough to be part of a small dinner party with friends who make their living in the food and wine industry. It was one of those evenings, full of laughter and great stories, with a wonderful meal accompanied by terrific wines that were way beyond my pay grade. Such a gathering of experts in their fields was perhaps common for them, but for us it was rare...

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Snug ‘n’ Glug: Local restaurants and bars with cozy fireplaces
Feb08

Snug ‘n’ Glug: Local restaurants and bars with cozy fireplaces

There’s something unnatural about strolling downtown in the dead of winter wearing a spring jacket and feeling a warm breeze on your face. Still, snuggling by the fire is a thing enjoyed in spring. So, whatever the weather feels like when these words reach you, dear reader, there’s some cuddling to be done fireside. On this balmy winter evening, my sweetie and I decide to check out what is likely one of the oldest fireplaces in...

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Still Poised to Pour: Discount liquor licenses in Holyoke haven’t attracted buyers
Feb08

Still Poised to Pour: Discount liquor licenses in Holyoke haven’t attracted buyers

Most restaurants rely on liquor sales for survival, which is why the city of Holyoke acquired 13 additional all-alcohol licenses to sell on the cheap as part of an urban renewal plan. But that was over a year ago and no one’s biting yet. At least one of the former applicants — Vitek Kruta, co-owner of Gateway City Arts — blamed eligibility requirements placed on the licences, which have been on sale for $10,000 apiece since fall 2014,...

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Madame Barfly: Mixing Beer? Have Fear
Feb03

Madame Barfly: Mixing Beer? Have Fear

Naturally, I was really excited about the whole beer cocktail thing. Beer is good, and cocktails are good, so how can we go wrong, right? As it turns out, some beer cocktails are good and others are downright disgusting. The Beerhunter and I put our booze brains together to see if we could come up with any tasty beer cocktails. It’s more challenging than we’d anticipated — beer has a flavor profile that frequently doesn’t play well...

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The Pour Man: Wine that Celebrates ‘Crime’ and Springfield’s John Boyle O’Reilly
Jan11

The Pour Man: Wine that Celebrates ‘Crime’ and Springfield’s John Boyle O’Reilly

A wine with a good back story is one thing, but when you find a good wine with a great back story, it makes the drinking all the better. The South Eastern Australian line of wines 19 Crimes — a red blend and a Cabernet Sauvignon — are well crafted and honor the ancestors of 20 percent of the country’s population, the criminals who were transported there from Great Britain over an 80-year period. From 1788 to 1868, it didn’t take much...

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More Than Granola: With corporate chain stores selling natural foods, co-ops double down on community ties
Jan04

More Than Granola: With corporate chain stores selling natural foods, co-ops double down on community ties

Steve Alves rolls up an chair, sits down at his desk, and opens a spreadsheet of every food co-op in America. He has been compiling this list for years. As his finger flicks the scroll wheel, hundreds of rows spill upward on the monitor: co-ops in states like Idaho, South Carolina, Colorado, Georgia, Wisconsin, California, and Kentucky. The city names are as diverse as America is vast: Long Beach, Durango, Jackson, Athens, Salt Point....

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Shhh! The Library keeps it classy in Easthampton
Jan04

Shhh! The Library keeps it classy in Easthampton

Cottage Street in Easthampton is a busy street on any night, and this New Year’s Eve is no different. I approach The Library’s front door and am warned by its words that I must be properly dressed to enter. Given the holiday — luckily — I’m dressed for the occasion, so I proceed. The tinted door closes behind me and all of the boisterous conversation, the crunch of boots on snow, and the whir of traffic are instantly canceled out....

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Average Joe: In defense of downtown Springfield’s coffee shops
Dec28

Average Joe: In defense of downtown Springfield’s coffee shops

Can Springfield’s Main Street ever hope to attract more foot traffic? At a brainstorming session on Dec. 17, MassDevelopment posed the question to residents and stakeholders. What’s missing from sidewalk life? One common response: good cafes and coffee shops. The idea is that hip young professionals won’t flock here for work without some trendier spots to put up their feet, eat good food, and relax among like-minded java connoisseurs....

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The Pour Man: Good Bubbly for $12?!
Dec28

The Pour Man: Good Bubbly for $12?!

Finding a well-crafted, dry sparkling wine in the $10 range can be difficult. There are plenty of good Italian Prosecco and Lambrusco wines in the range, and I tried a number of them this year in an effort to discover an inexpensive sparkler for the holidays, one that wouldn’t start my new year off with a boiling stomach or a splitting headache. However, I find the affordable Italian sparkling wines to be a little on the sweet side,...

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Pie vs. Cake
Dec21

Pie vs. Cake

The Thanksgiving feast has been devoured, and now it’s time for dessert. There’s two pies and two cakes on the table. Now, you must choose. Who knew mom was setting us up for this debate all along? It’s the holiday season, so it’s the perfect time to hash out the debate we inwardly or outwardly arrive at during family functions — most of us seem to be either a pie person or a cake person. Wherever these teams came from, they exist,...

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A Red Wine From a Noble Spanish Grape
Dec14

A Red Wine From a Noble Spanish Grape

In recent weeks, I’ve tried a couple of excellent Spanish wines made from 100 percent Garnacha, a grape with a long, colorful history. The wines are full- bodied, inky red and have a lot of fruit flavor, and they’re affordable. Each comes from a different region of Spain, and the flavors reflect that. La Maldita, a wine made from Garnacha grown in Rioja, a region in north central Spain, draws its name from an expletive that growers...

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Not All Candy Canes are Created Equal
Dec14

Not All Candy Canes are Created Equal

Santa Claus and his elves make a fine traditional candy cane, but after a couple of centuries of Christmas, it’s time to shake up the cane game a bit. Enter Hammond’s, a Colorado-candy maker that distributes widely throughout the Valley and has a penchant for cranking out bright, dazzling, super-sized candy canes in an array of alternative flavors. There’s Blood Orange, Cotton Candy, Butterscotch, and Caramel Apple to name a few. The...

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We Went Vegan … for lunch
Dec07

We Went Vegan … for lunch

If you’ve ever worked in restaurants, you probably know that vegan is a five-letter-word often unwelcome among chefs. But veganism is gaining steam.A recent World Health Organization study disappointed bacon-lovers everywhere when it reported an 18 percent increase in colorectal cancer risk associated with the daily intake of processed meats. The release brought eyes back to a United Nations report from 2010, which urged the western...

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